Do we really treat the Eucharist as Sacred?, The Anchor, May 30, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Putting into the Deep
The Anchor
May 30, 2014

The black mass controversy at Harvard earlier this month awakened many Catholics from spiritual somnolence with regard to devil worship and Eucharistic desecration. It’s important in its aftermath not to allow the spectacular nature of the Cambridge provocation to distract us from the ordinary lessons all of us should draw.

Since Satan’s standard stratagem is not to seduce multitudes to participate in occult rituals of Eucharistic sacrilege, but to entice us to receive Holy Communion unworthily or not at all, our response to the Harvard incident can’t be just to remain hyper-vigilant about Satanists’ pilfering hosts, but to become vigilant about the far more common forms of sacrilege and the widespread nonchalance by which Catholics regularly neglect their Eucharistic Lord.

Let’s begin with the latter. How pleased Satan must be that on any given Sunday the vast majority of Catholics have been hoodwinked into believing something else is more important than coming to be with Jesus at Mass. Many Catholics don’t behave as if they believe the sacred liturgy involves Jesus’ coming down upon the altar in sacramental form.

Jesus lamented to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673 that “most” people respond to him in the Eucharist with “indifference, irreverence, coldness, sacrilege and scorn,” words that Jesus could reiterate each Lord’s Day. Many behave as if they believe Jesus doesn’t really care that they place work, sleep, soccer practice, cartoons, or tailgate parties above him on the day he wants to love us to the extreme and bring his whole family together. And the evil one chortles as he sees most Catholics fall down and worship these false gods each Christian Sabbath instead of the Son of God.

But if the devil sniggers over his success in duping people to disregard the privilege of encountering Jesus in the Mass, he’s probably even happier in having hornswoggled so many of those who still practice into receiving Jesus in Holy Communion unworthily. Many now believe that no matter the state of their soul, they’re “entitled” to receive Holy Communion as a sign of Christian hospitality. No confession needed. No conversion needed. No communion of life needed.

Satan has beguiled faithful and clergy to think that unrepentant abortion doctors are entitled to receive Jesus on their bloodstained hands, that remorseless gossipers may approach to receive on their tattling tongues, that impenitent adulterers may come in line with their paramours, that shameless politicians may receive adorned with their Planned Parenthood pins, that those who haven’t been to Mass in decades may approach as if they were daily communicants, that those who aren’t Catholic or even Christian, or who believe that all they’re receiving is a worthless wafer of unleavened bread may come as if they were in complete sacramental, doctrinal, and moral communion with Christ and his body.

One of the reasons why the question of whether those who are divorced-and-remarried and living in what Jesus himself calls a situation of adultery may receive Holy Communion is controversial today is that many can’t fathom that someone would be present at Mass and not receive Holy Communion. The father of lies has convinced many faithful and clergy to believe that James Joyce’s famous witticism about the Catholic Church — “Here comes everybody!” — is meant to apply to the communion line.

This message is often given, implicitly or explicitly, by many Church ministers, when, contrary to Church discipline, they scandalously invite all present at funerals or weddings to receive Communion, regardless of whether they’re Catholic, practicing, or in the state of grace. It’s also communicated when some shepherds indicate that they would never refuse anyone Holy Communion, even though canon law requires ministers to deny when people are objectively unfit.

The failure to talk about the proper dispositions for Holy Communion — and the unwillingness to enforce them when those who don’t  abide by them defiantly present themselves anyway —communicates a message that, when push comes to shove, we don’t really believe that the Eucharist is sacred, that sacrilegious communion isn’t a big deal, and that we care more about making people feel good and superficially welcome than bringing people into true communion of life with Jesus.

Some Catholics have the attitude, “Jesus can take care of himself,” but this resembles Judas’ perspective, not Mary’s. Rather than pleasing the One who laments “sacrilege,” it delights the one who provokes it.

And just as Satanic worship harms the false adorer, so unworthy communions harm the receiver. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Corpus Christi Sequence (Lauda Sion Salvatorem) has some harrowing verses based on St. Paul’s words that “those who eat the body and blood of the Lord unworthily eat and drink condemnation upon themselves” (1 Cor 11:29). The Angelic Doctor stresses the Bread of Life becomes the bread of death for those who consume unworthily: “Both good and evil receive, but to totally different ends, one to life and the other to the tomb, death to the wicked, life to the virtuous. Behold how different the result of a similar reception.” (Sumunt boni, sumunt mali, sorte tamen inaequali, vitae vel interitus. Mors est malis, vita bonis: vide paris sumptionis quam sit dispar exitus). 

In reaction to the proposed black Mass at Harvard, there was an astounding response of adoration and reparation from Catholics in parishes and convents across the world. In reply to the more subtle and stock Satanic subterfuges, there needs to be a rebirth of taking Jesus in the Eucharist seriously, by showing up to be in his presence each Lord’s day and by ensuring that one and others are receiving Him unto life rather than into death.

If Jesus laments the indifference, irreverence, coldness, sacrilege and scorn with which so many treat him — and he’s speaking here not of Satanists but of Catholics — there needs to be a reawakening of treating him precedence, piety, passion, praise and purity. In short, a renewal of treating him as he really deserves.